“On February 6, 2013, the UT San Diego electronic edition reported that a teenager was arrested for arson and vandalism of a Day-Care Center, causing about $70,000 in damages. The suspect was shortly thereafter booked into Juvenile Hall.

The reporter did not reveal whether she contacted the parents, the school and/or any friends of the boy to ascertain whether he was having any challenges in school, with his peers and/or home environment. It would not be unusual for there to have been previous signs and/or indications that therapeutic intervention was necessary and appropriate. What motivated this 14-year old to do these types of crimes is however unclear, but the boy admitted to the charges.

Many therapists and forensic experts have opined that often individuals with rage and aggression also have a lack of impulse control, and these crimes are their way of crying out for help so their life can be different. Unlike others in society, they have no healthy way to express their overwhelming anger. Sadly, these types of crimes often progress beyond significant property damage cases but can lead to serious injury and even death.

If the family cannot afford private counsel, the Judge will appoint a Deputy Public Defender to represent the boy. The goal is rehabilitation and not just punishment and to deter others from committing crime. The strategy of defense counsel will initially be to perform a thorough investigation as well as to obtain a forensic evaluation.”

–Sam Spital

Boy, 15, charged with murder in Vista stabbing (Sam Spital)


“It is a sad commentary in today’s society that so many individuals’ lives will be adversely impacted by a 15 year old boy who otherwise could have used his youth as an opportunity to grow to be a productive adult and realize the happiness found in achieving goals and paying forward. Instead, the UT San Diego News posted an article on November 21, 2012 about this teenager who was charged as an adult for Assault with a Deadly Weapon and Murder with Gang allegations in connection with the stabbing death of a competing gang member in a local park in Vista. The boy faces 30 years to life for the killing.

The reporter did not include any family history, explanation, and/or mitigation regarding the offender; and of course, the reader is left with a question whether any possible exculpatory evidence might exist to explain, much less to demonstrate justification for the brutal attack. The defense counsel will likely perform a thorough investigation with family, friends and potential witnesses to better evaluate the facts of the incident as well as to determine whether the defendant has any remorse that can be presented at the penalty phase of the court case.”

–Sam Spital

Articles: Delinquency

November 02, 2004
By Blair Clarkson
Daily Journal Staff Writer

LOS ANGELES – The juvenile-delinquency court has been called everything from a revolving door to the unwanted stepchild of the justice system. Critics lament a sloppy system that strands minors in youth camps for months or years without effective treatment, only to send them back to court soon after their release.

The new state Rule of Court Section 1479, unveiled in July and presented to lawyers, social workers, judges and child advocates at a family and children’s law conference on Friday, attacks the problem by expanding the delinquency attorney’s role to include advocacy after the court case is finished.

“It’s giving emphasis to a new and important way to start representing kids,” said Jo Kaplan, a prominent delinquency lawyer and juvenile-court commissioner. “This rule says that delinquency counsel have a responsibility to see that the delinquent gets treatment.”

“If you don’t advocate for them to get treatment and services, they’re never going to get better,” Kaplan told an audience at the 9th annual New Beginnings conference in Los Angeles. Objectors, however, said delinquency attorneys have full calendars and lack the time and money to act as social workers for each of their clients.

While Joan Croker, head deputy in the juvenile division of the Los Angeles County public defender’s office, supports post-disposition advocacy, she says financial realities make it impossible. “In a perfect world, we would do this for every single client,” Croker said. “But nobody can afford that. The system doesn’t have the time. We need more funding to do it the way it should be done.”

Delinquency attorney Pat Rice, who joined Kaplan on Friday, insisted the job can be done. “Scheduling will be a hassle with juggling new hearings and follow-ups, but you’ve just got to do it,” Rice said. “All we really have to do is think a little differently.” The new rule outlines a dual role for delinquency lawyers. In addition to learning everything possible about a client’s particular mental health and personal life, the advocate must review the client’s treatment plan continually, see that it is fully executed in rehabilitation camps and work with the child toward permanent solutions. The extra work will cut into the high recidivism that attorneys say is a product of lack of follow-up to ensure that the delinquent child receives the particular educational or psychological services he or she needs in youth camps and juvenile facilities.

An Orange County report cited by the League of Women Voters Juvenile Justice Commission found that 8 percent to 12 percent of juvenile offenders accounted for 60 percent of juvenile crimes. “Nobody ever checks up on these kids,” Kaplan said. “This is really an opportunity for lawyers to figure out a way to check on their clients to see that they’re getting the remedial help they need.” Recent scathing rebukes of the California Youth Authority and other juvenile camps have raised awareness among delinquency advocates about the dearth of services for children in the system. The state has the highest rate of youth incarceration in the country, and overcrowding has limited youth camps’ ability to provide help, according to the state legislative analyst’s office. A concerted effort to correct these problems is long overdue, said Sue Burrell, a staff attorney at the Youth Law Center. “This rule says very loudly that cases should be brought back to court if kids aren’t getting what they need at camps,” Burrell said. “One of the sad things is that everybody acts as though the case is over after disposition. “But that’s when the whole rehabilitation process is supposed to take place.” Yet Burrell, a former L.A. County public defender, acknowledges that more funding and staffing and lighter caseloads will be needed to offset the huge amount of additional work and investigation demanded from delinquency attorneys. “The system has to provide resources to make sure it can be done,” she said. “It’s hard to expect that public defenders can do all this without help.”

Sam Spital, a former deputy attorney general and probation officer now representing delinquents at Spital & Associates in San Diego, says he has little pity for critics of the rule change.

“If you don’t have the time to follow up with your clients, don’t take the case,” Spital said. “Is it about the money you get or about keeping them from coming back into the court system?”

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